Here’s a pretty terrifying fact if you’re a marketer for Jeep: out of the top 33 car brands selling cars in the United States, Jeep’s sales growth is at the absolute bottom, meaning that there are 32 brands ahead of them (can you even name 32 car brands?). In a market where almost every brand is growing, Jeep has lost 12% of sales compared to 2022, which itself was a dismal year. This comes after four consecutive years of sales declines for Jeep. What can be done?
Nostalgia! I don’t usually talk about marketing here, though it does fascinate me. Jeep is, potentially, a super strong brand, but it hasn’t been lately. The approach Stellantis is taking to fix it is an interesting one and I want to talk about it first. There’s also some news out of Mercedes in the form of a “Baby g” as well as updates on Toyota’s fuel cell projects and a look at the overall chip supply.
Check Out The ‘Dents’ On This Jeep
I’ve discussed, at length, the challenges Jeep is currently facing. On the one hand, the PHEV 4XE vehicles have been a surprising sales success. On the other hand, the overall product mix for Jeep doesn’t seem to be resonating with the larger market. Plus, competition from Ford and its Bronco line of vehicles is giving the Wrangler its first real test in decades.
Jeep, ultimately, has a product problem. Perhaps the new 2024 Jeep Wrangler is good (we haven’t reviewed it yet). Still, a mildly refreshed 2024 Wrangler is not going to suddenly turn the brand’s fortunes around.
Just look at this sales report from FCA:
There’s the Jeep brand through the first half of 2023. It ain’t pretty. YTD the best performing vehicle is the Compass, which appears to be heavily incentivized (the brand is currently offering 15% off MSRP). Literally every other vehicle is declining year-over-year.
In my humble opinion, the Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer has not broken into the big SUV space to truly challenge Ford and GM. The Renegade is old and hard to swallow at almost any price. If you want a Jeep Wrangler there’s no better Jeep Wrangler than a Jeep Wrangler, but depending upon the price, you might be better off buying a Bronco Sport than just about any of their small crossover/SUVs (or a Chevy Trax or Kia Seltos, if you don’t need/want the off-road chops).
The Grand Cherokee is good and, if you work for Jeep, the rebound in Q2 is hopeful.
Product problems are hard to fix and it takes years, not days, to fix them. You know what you can fix in days? Marketing. Marketing will always exist to fix product problems.
A story in Automotive News caught my eye this morning, because the reporter there spoke with Stellantis marketing head Olivier Francois to find out exactly what the brand is trying to accomplish. The campaign is called “Dents” and it’s dripping with nostalgia. Just look at the video at the top of this section. Look at all the memories created by one Jeep! Look at the family! Listen to the smarmy, Mumford & Sons-y song!
From the article:
Olivier Francois, marketing chief for Jeep parent Stellantis, said the ad’s focus is building loyalty rather than conquesting buyers.
Francois said the time was right for a Grand Cherokee campaign as dealership inventory grows. He said the nameplate has logged millions of sales since 1992 and has a place in the hearts of many.
“This is an extended approach to loyalty,” Francois told reporters last week. “Literally a new generation, cross-generational loyalty to the vehicle, and this will allow us to add an emotional and nostalgic level of connection with the customer.”
As Peter pointed out in Slack, this is basically the same ad Subaru ran, with essentially the same song, back in 2017:
I mean, I work with a crazy person who is spending a lot of time and money putting together the ultimate Jeep Grand Cherokee so maybe this is going to work on Jeep people.
They Call Me ‘Baby g’
Speaking of beloved off-road brands… for years, Mercedes has apparently considered making a smaller G-Class. Instead, Mercedes built the more family-friendly GLB, which is a completely fine and forgettable crossover thing.
It sounds like we’re finally going to get the baby-G.
“Tonight, we are announcing for all the G-Fans out there, there will be a little g,” Mercedes CEO Källenius told Bloomberg at the Munich car show, adding “So a son or daughter of the iconic G.”
This makes a lot of sense to me. A smaller, cheaper, boxy Gelandewagen can trade on the brand’s iconic shape. While there’s no timing that’s been announced, it’s clear from Mercedes that this new itty-bitty-g will be all-electric.
Microchip Shortage Update: North America FTW!
The ongoing microchip shortage has had an outsized impact on the car market in the United States, but our fortunes are improving. According to Automotive News/Auto Forecast Solutions, the number of vehicles that had to be delayed due to chips shortages in North America fell to only around 4,700 last week.
That’s not zero, but it’s a big improvement from August of last year, when around 22,300 vehicles were cut in a week according to the same data set. Things are still rough in Asia, where non-Chinese plants lost 43,157 vehicles and Chinese plants lost an additional 19,669 production slots.
Toyota’s Long Beach Port Operations Now Powered By Hydrogen
If you go to the Port of Long Beach complex and find Toyota’s section you’ll see something quite interesting. Rising out of a massive concrete field is a strange collection of metal tubes, machinery, and tanks that at once looks familiar and somehow new.
This is a hydrogen “Tri-Gen” powerplant, built by the company FuelCell Energy, and it now powers Toyota’s port operations. Using renewable biogas (i.e., natural gas created by decomposing biomatter), the facility produces electricity, hydrogen, and usable water.
The energy will help power Toyota’s equipment, the hydrogen will be used for Toyota hydrogen vehicles, and the water will be used in the company’s car wash operations. The water part is quite interesting and should, according to Toyota, reduce water supplies by about half a million gallons per year.
While I’m still not convinced that we’ll all be driving hydrogen cars in a few years, these kinds of industrial projects make a lot of sense to me. Obviously, there are limits on how much biogas can be produced, but taking methane released from landfills and preventing it from becoming a greenhouse gas is a powerful idea.
The Big Question
It’s Thursday. It’s been a long week. Here’s an easy one for you: How would you save Jeep?
Photos: Toyota, Jeep
- I May Have Trapped Jason In An Incidental ‘Cask of Amontillado’ Type Deal – Tales From The Slack
- The BMW M240ixDrive Is A Junior 6 Series That Doesn’t Need An M Badge To Be Great
- The Autopian Announces A New Membership Tier For The Cheap Bastards Among You: Cloth
- The Second-Generation Buick LaCrosse Marked A Rebirth For Buick: GM Hit Or Miss